By Glenn Ruffenach
A nationwide program to fight Medicare fraud is expanding, and organizers could use your help.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is awarding $9 million to Senior Medicare Patrol programs across the country. Started in 1997 and operated by the Administration on Aging, Senior Medicare Patrol recruits and trains older Americans to “recognize and report instances or patterns of health-care fraud,” according to the AOA.
The new funds will enable individual Senior Medicare Patrol projects to expand education programs that teach Medicare beneficiaries how to detect, report and prevent such fraud.
Senior Medicare Patrol is made up primarily of volunteers – almost 5,000 individuals in all 50 states at the close of 2010. These volunteers teach classes to – and have individual counseling sessions with – Medicare beneficiaries, as well as family members and caregivers. The focus: why and how to review Medicare notices and Medicaid claims to, first, identify errors and, second, look for potentially fraudulent activity.
From 1997 through the end of 2010, Senior Medicare Patrol projects have educated about four million beneficiaries – and have saved an estimated $106 million. (That figure includes Medicare and Medicaid funds recovered, as well as beneficiary savings.)
If you think you might be interested in volunteering – or if you simply wish to learn more about Medicare fraud – visit the National Consumer Protection Technical Resource Center at smpresource.org. The center is a central source of information and assistance for Senior Medicare Patrol projects in each state. The center also can help you locate projects in your area.
For instance, one of the most valuable parts of the website – under the heading “Health Care Fraud” – offers basic information about protecting yourself from Medicare errors, fraud and abuse. Example: Beware of advertising that promises Medicare will pay for certain care or devices. And always look for three things on your billing statements: charges for something you didn’t get; billing for the same thing twice; and services that were not ordered by your doctor.